And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.
-Maya Angelou

Sunday, January 11, 2015

One Year

January 5, 2015.

One year. One year since I last held my sweet boy in my arms. Three Hundred Sixty Five Days since I last looked into those beautiful, soulful eyes. This last year has been the hardest - and the darkest - year of my life. While there were many tough years during Jack's lifetime, I always had Jack to give me the strength and the light to carry me through. When Jack died, the light went out and I didn't have the strength or even the desire to find my way out of the darkness. It's called grief. I've always been someone who tackles life's challenges head on and just deals with them. But grief is not amenable to being dealt with or fixed - it must simply be endured. This last year I gave myself permission to not be strong, not be focused and not have a plan. I allowed myself to just "be" and feel and grieve. I have now survived the year of "firsts" without Jack and having made it through this last year, I feel a sense of relief. I approach this next year with an attitude of hope. I'm hopeful that this next year will bring a little more light and a lot less darkness. I'm hopeful that I can find joy and purpose in my life again. There is a tremendous amount of guilt that comes with choosing to find joy in a life without your child. But I didn't get to die with Jack, so I have no choice but to carry on. I have to make peace with a life where grief will always coexist with joy. I pray for the strength to be Jack's legacy, to be Jack's voice and to honor Jack's life by living again. 

I knew that I had to get out of town for the first anniversary of Jack's death. The place that brings me the most peace is the ocean. So we rented a condo and spent seven days together as a family on Coronado Island. We saw seven beautiful sunsets. We went to bed early, we woke up late, we biked around the island and we enjoyed stress-free time together as a family. It was amazing and restorative. 

I was prepared for January 5th to be a day of great sadness and grief. But it turned out to be quite the opposite. Mark, Mary and I got up early and biked down to the beach where we walked along the shore for several hours, each lost in our own thoughts. We then went back and got Hilary and Eric (who were glued to their electronics) and made them come to the beach with us. We spent the afternoon looking for sea shells and sand dollars, we played frisbee, we laughed and we enjoyed each other's company. I wanted to be sad, I thought I was supposed to be sad, but it was hard to find sadness on a beautiful, warm sunny day at the beach watching my kids have fun together. I can't tell you the last time (if ever) that I saw my kids have fun together. We had several things planned to remember and honor Jack. One of the things we did was decorate a rock and write on it something that was meaningful to us - whether it had to do with Jack or just with ourselves and then at sunset we tossed our rocks into the ocean. After that we had a private bonfire and s'mores party courtesy of the Hotel Del Coronado. We roasted marshmallows and raised our glasses to Jack. Some of us raised a glass of Irish Whiskey and some of us raised a glass of grape cider! We ended the evening by writing on prayer papers that a friend of mine sent me several months ago. The idea was to write on the paper, light it and watch it float away. The floating away part didn't quite happen like it was supposed to, but the symbolism was there. It was a full day and we came home tired and content.

Only after everyone was in bed and the quiet and darkness fell, did my tears fall. I miss Jack so much and I always will. But I know with all my heart that he is okay. Jack IS okay. I find that my tears fall the most when I pray. I think it's because God has Jack and I don't. But the knowledge that Jack is healed and in God's presence is what will sustain me the rest of my days on this earth. 

I look forward to the day I get to see my sweet boy again. But in the meantime, 

Onward it is.

Pictures from our week away

About an hour into our drive to California, a rain storm rolled across the desert and we were graced with this image. A Jack-wink? I'd like to think so.

beach sunset our first night 

The kids playing frisbee on the beach

each of our stones

throwing our stones into the ocean

S'mores on the beach

A toast to our sweet Jack

A sandcastle on the beach. The words and the date captured our sentiments exactly

another beautiful sunset

relaxing and taking in the view

mom and Mary selfie


  1. As always, beautifully written Ann. What a beautiful trip to remember your beautiful Jack. Seeing the rest of your kids having fun together must have been so nice. The ocean is restorative. Although you miss Jack and will always live with grief I hope that the worst of it is behind you. XOXOXO.

  2. I'm crying over here. So, so beautiful! I am blessed to have spent time with you on that beach. I love reading all the good in your post. If anyone can do the hard stuff, it's you. Love and miss you! xo

    1. Thanks Christy. I thought of our wonderful weekend when I was there this time. Imagine if we could have spent an entire week there. I came back so incredibly relaxed. But, then, again, I didn't have a child back home to worry about while I was there. Love you. xo

  3. I'm so glad that you took this trip as a family, and found your way to a happy "anniversary," including the release of tears and prayers. As Fr. Rohr says, "Everything belongs." What a blessing, perhaps in part from Jack himself, that you are filled with hope for the days and years to come - one moment at a time."Onward" indeed, in great company.

    1. Thanks so much Karen. I treasure your words of encouragement and support. You've been where I'm at and you have not only survived, you have thrived. xo